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The Melbourne Cup preview - part 2, runners 14-24

Continuing on from my assessment of the top half of the field.

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14. Sir John Hawkwood - Group 2/3 stayer who won the weakest G1 in the land a month ago (the Metropolitan) and then looked hopelessly out of his depth at Caulfield. Off to the retirement paddock after this. Simply no.

PROS: Has the miles in his legs for a hard grind.
CONS: Beaten in races like the Tattersall's and Brisbane Cup. Needs the field to stop in front of him, simply isn't of this class and nor is his jockey.
PACE MAP: Can go anywhere from 14, won't matter.

15. Excess Knowledge - Waterhouse (and Bott)-trained, so there'll be blind money for him. Ran seventh last year, parked on the pace and swamped at the end beaten 3.1L after winning the Lexus on the Saturday. Ran fourth in the MV Cup which was a brutal race for those up on the pace. Third behind Almandin at previous start, giving him 3kg. Gate 21 with an average jockey aboard, not much going for him.

PROS: By Monsun, no worries about running the race out.
CONS: Return runners in the Cup have pretty poor record, especially if unplaced. Wide gate, average jockey.
PACE MAP: Has to go back or will be seven-wide stalking the pace.

16. Beautiful Romance - ran third at 20/1 in British Champions F&M Group 1 last year behind Simple Verse (beat Bondi Beach in the St.Leger a month earlier) but little else to recommend her. Beaten >10L by Dartmouth, Treve and Minding in higher class races. Drawn the paint, has a canny young jockey in Damian Lane aboard but needs an outboard motor more than luck.

PROS: Lightly raced, still has upside. Talented young jockey aboard.
CONS: Inside draw rarely advantageous, appears harshly weighted compared to other visitors.
PACE MAP: Midfield fence, will need to ride for luck.

17. Almandin - impressive winner of the Bart Cummings a month ago with seemingly plenty in hand. Boasts a win over Protectionist early in his career and also ran second to star French gelding Solow. Took two years to hit the track in Australia, had a light winter campaign to prepare for the spring, then kicked into gear once he hit 2400m at Caulfield. Plenty of upside in him with only 11 starts under his belt as a southern hemisphere 7yo, hasn't faced most of the field and has a quality lightweight jockey aboard.

PROS: Formlines against top grade horses in Europe, albeit two years ago. Won very easily at Flemington, this is a big step up but has plenty of ticks - stable, jockey, breeding...
CONS: Gate 17 and considerable class rise.
PACE MAP: Front half of the field trying to squeeze in.

18. Assign - another from the Hickmott/Williams stable. Promising start to his career in Ireland, running a close second to multiple G1 winner Fascinating Rock and then won a Premier Handicap as a 3yo, hasn't kicked on here. Tenth run in Australia, still improving. Started 2.20 against Real Love in the autumn after winning the Victoria Cup. This campaign, he ran second to Almandin at Caulfield before winning a pretty ordinary Herbert Power off the limit weight. Drawn 22 with Katelyn Mallyon aboard (excellent front-running jockey), he seems well out of his depth.

PROS: Has always shown talent, can go forward or back.
CONS: Huge step up in class and drawn the car park.
PACE MAP: Has the option of going forward but could find that end of the field very hot.

19. Grey Lion - certain to attract a lot of mug money as the only grey, finishing ahead of the weekend boom horse Oceanographer in the Geelong Cup and trained by a Cumani. Distance no concern, has trained very well at Werribee, has formlines through One Foot In Heaven who ran sixth in the Arc. Probably out of his depth but still has upside, include in multiples.

PROS: Will be going strong at the business end, Geelong Cup run should tighten him up.
CONS: Ran last in the Prix Kergolay which was a strong market for Americain and Dunaden. Looks a bit rich for him.
PACE MAP: From 16, I expect Glenn Boss to try and slide across slightly back of midfield.

20. Oceanographer - the boom horse from the weekend, an exceptional win in the Lexus to get into the field. Only a 4yo by northern clocks, he won three of his first five starts, then went into the Wolferton Handicap at Royal Ascot, one of the hottest contested races of the week, at 7/1, but over-raced and dropped right out behind Sir Isaac Newton (who started 8/1). Has race in handicaps throughout his career, unlike most of the higher class stayers. Why this is relevant is the pace and competitive nature - rather than stop-start affairs, there's a lot more going on and tactics are critical. Has a considerable 7kg weight turnaround on Heartbreak City from the Ebor when he was unlucky, ran on nicely in the Geelong Cup at his first local start, then unleashed outstanding sectionals (56.81 for last 1000m!) to win the Lexus on Saturday from another postcode. Impressive Lexus winners traditionally back up well in the Cup, has plenty going for him.

PROS: Momentum. Absolutely flying and if he can back up, that's a huge headstart on most rivals.
CONS: Not many. Step up in class but his acceleration counters that.
PACE MAP: Ideal draw, expect Chad Schofield to sit behind midfield and work home off the solid pace.

21. Secret Number - highly-rated 3yo (started 7/4 in UAE Derby) but obviously had plenty of problems, having just four runs since October 2013. All four runs have been in the quinella, including the Queen's Cup here last year, when he suffered interference and ran second to Dandino. Won the Doonside at Ayr in September, a race Scottish and Exospheric came out of from 2015. Warmly tipped in the UK today by Pricewise and some others, definite chance at odds.

PROS: Has raced in black type races throughout his career, under-rated due to lack of racing.
CONS: Is he battle-hardened enough with four runs in three years? How brittle is he?
PACE MAP: Drawn beautifully in 10, can slot into perfect position about four pairs back, one off the rail.

22. Pentathlon - Kiwi visitor, won the Trentham Cup, second in the Wellington Cup, fourth in the Auckland Cup (behind Rose of Virginia). OK in the MV Cup but miles behind them in the Lexus on Saturday. Might end up the longshot of the field on the totes. Absolutely no hope.

PROS: Won't slow down at the end.
CONS: Won't go faster at the end either.
PACE MAP: Midfield on the rail, gets in the way.

23. Qewy - led all the way to win the Geelong Cup, ahead of Oceanographer. Generally doesn't lead, more of a front-half of field stayer who keeps on going. Ran home well over 4000m at Royal Ascot but that really is a plodders' race. Handy, has decent Timeform ratings, but don't expect him to be looming up at the clocktower.

PROS: Has travelled well, no concerns about stamina.
CONS: Beat Oceanographer once, can't see it happening again.
RACE MAP: From 15, there's plenty of competition to go forward. Being posted three or four wide won't necessarily stop him.

24. Rose of Virginia - not a hope in hell. In four starts in much weaker fields, she has started no shorter than 70/1 this campaign. Ran second in the Auckland Cup in March, ain't done squat since.

PROS: May improve for more distance.
CONS: Woeful on Saturday.
RACE MAP: Hopefully goes back and stays out of everyone's way.

Final analysis including selections and exotic bets still to come....

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